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The SDA’s campaign to stop abusive and violent customer behaviour towards retail and fast food workers.

Working in fast food doesn’t put us below you. We’re just trying to do our job.
Watch our new fast food ad telling customers to respect workers.

In December 2017, the SDA launched the No One Deserves A Serve campaign to create awareness about retail and fast food workers facing constant abusive and violent behaviour from customers at work. This is a serious workplace health and safety issue that needs to be addressed.

In December 2018, the SDA will highlight the impact on fast food workers over the festive season and call for respect for retail and fast food workers.

The new survey follows on from an SDA survey of over 6,000 retail and fast food workers in 2017 showing over 85% of retail and fast food workers had experienced abuse in the previous 12 months.

From December, the SDA will ramp up the campaign in the lead up to Christmas where incidents of abuse and violence from customers may increase during peak trading periods in both fast food and retail.

In every state and territory in Australia, the SDA will run an advertising blitz on television, online, on radio, in newsfeeds and Snapchat, on buses and in shopping centres.

The message is clear: abuse is not part of the job, no one deserves a serve.

Key facts from a new SDA survey of fast food workers:

  • 1000 fast food workers responded to our survey in December 2018.
  • 80% of respondents said they have experienced abuse from a customer at work in the last 12 months.
  • 41% of respondents are 17 years old or under.
  • 87% of respondents experienced verbal abuse or aggressive behaviour.
  • 28% of respondents experienced physical abuse, such as punching, hitting and pushing (or threats of physical abuse including death threats and threats with a weapon) by a customer.
  • 32% of respondents said incidents of customer abuse or violence involved behaviour that was sexual in nature.
  • 44% of respondents said the abuse they experience has impacted on their mental or physical health.

Please note, these are real stories from workers in their own own words and may contain offensive language.
Keep in mind, of the 1,000 workers we surveyed 41% were 17 years old or under and 71% were women.

  • “We didn’t have frozen raspberry … so he threatened to slit my throat.”
  • “A customer threatened to kill my family and myself if I didn’t remake his cheeseburger because the first one was apparently too cold.”
  • “He threatened to break my kneecaps with a bat.”
  • “A customer threatened to kill me and tried to jump through the Drive Thru window.”
  • “A customer threw a cigarette butt at me and then drove off.”
  • “I’ve been threatened with actual physical knives.”
  • “I have been threatened to be raped.  I have had customers physically throw items at me including hot coffee.”
  • “I’ve had things thrown at me. Been told they are going to kill me and wait for me after work.”
  • “I have been physically and sexually threatened. I have been verbally abused. I have had my life, health, safety threatened. I have been spat on.”
  • “One guy tried to fight one of our 16-year-old workers and then threw his food at the window and then called the store making bomb threats.”
  • “Threats to jump the counter and smash my face in. A customer poured a bottle of coke over my head. Constant verbal abuse.”
  • “I have had customers coming in and say things like “where the f*ck is my pizza you little c*nt I’m gonna f*ck this place up if I don’t get my f*cking pizza.”
  • “He threw 4 large soft drinks at me and demanded his money back so I was soaking wet, he also told me to go die.”
  • “A male customer told me to “go get f*cked you stupid f*cking sl*t”.
  • “I am constantly yelled at, sworn at and treated inhumanely by customers at my workplace. I’ve been called names ranging from “incompetent piece of sh*t” to “dumb c*nt” and “fat sl*t”.
  • “I’ve also had someone attempt to pull me out the drive thru window.”
  • “I’ve been called a b*tch, been grabbed at, been sworn at and been told they’ll come find me. Some tell me I’m a worthless drop out. I’m literally still in school.”
  • “A guy was rubbing himself down there while I was serving him.”
  • “Old men winking and saying rude sexual comments.”
  • “A customer said oh, you’re the area manager? I’d let you manage my area”.
  • “Customers will speak to the girls inappropriately, asking for their numbers when they’re clearly underage.”
  • “On at least 3 occasions, a trucker I see on a regular basis, has told me he wants me in response to me asking him if he wanted anything else with his meal.”
  • “Constantly hitting on me to get me to go out with them and telling me how age doesn’t matter.”
  • “Passing the cash change through the window he took my hand and was rubbing up and down my hand saying how nice I felt under his fingertips. Also, have had an old man ask to take me home with his fries.”
  • “Inappropriate comments and wouldn’t take no for an answer…. followed me outside when I was on break and wouldn’t leave me alone. Tried kissing me.”
  • “Making comments like “I love it when a girl gives it a good twist” and inappropriate nicknames such as babe, darling, and sweetie, particularly from older, middle aged men. For context, I experienced this as a 16-17-year-old.”

SDA union members are standing up against abusive and violent customer behaviour. Be part of the campaign.
Sharing your story is powerful and helps our case to build better, effective protections for workers.

Reporting is essential for a safer store

Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment. Abusive and violent customers are a safety hazard and should be dealt with appropriately.

The SDA calls on employers to do everything they can to prevent abuse and violence from customers and ensure workers are protected. Employers should:

  • Identify risk of exposure your workers may have to abuse or violence from customers
  • Put in place controls to mitigate risks
  • Encourage workers to report all incidents
  • Support workers when incidents occurs
  • Send a clear message to customers that abusive behaviour is not tolerated
  • Have a process for handling incidents and provide training for staff

Many retail and fast food workers think abuse is just part of the job. But this is wrong.

It is a serious health and safety issue that can impact your mental and physical health. Your employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment. Being abused at work is a safety issue – just like slipping on a spill or being burned with hot oil.

We need workers to report incidents so there is a record of it happening when we approach employers about putting in place better protections for you.

If there are no reports of abusive or violent customers, they could just turn around and say ‘no it doesn’t happen here’, which makes any change for a safer store more difficult.

The process for reporting health and safety issues such as abusive and violent customer behaviour may be different depending on your employer and your store.

Find out the correct procedure in your store and when an incident occurs report it to your supervisor.

You should also report it to your SDA Health & Safety Rep or Delegate/Shop Steward and your Health & Safety Committee if your store has one.

Remember, you’re not alone. If you’re reporting incidents but don’t feel like you’re being appropriately supported, get in touch with the SDA for help.

Yes. You can report any safety issue or hazard that you see or experience, even if it doesn’t happen to you directly.

Reporting incidents creates a record of the abuse so we can push for better protections to make your store safer. If you don’t report it – it’s like it never happened.

When someone gets injured at work, you report it. If you were to slip from a spill on the floor at work, you would report it.

Being on the receiving end or seeing abusive or violent behaviour is a safety hazard. It can have a serious impact on the mental and physical health of you and your work mates.

That’s why you should report it. For you and for your work mates.

Exposure to abusive behaviour from customers can impact on your mental health.

If you need immediate help, contact the following organisations for professional help.

13 11 14 

Beyond Blue:
1300 22 4636

1800 737 732


SDA members are campaigning to stop abusive and violent customer behaviour in every state and territory in Australia.

It’s an ongoing campaign targeting customers to change their behaviour and build better protections for workers.

Not a member?

Join now

Since December 2017, the SDA has been publicly campaigning to keep this issue in the spotlight.

1 in 5 Australians have noticed our campaign with 85% saying it raises an important issue and 9 in 10 Australians agree that it’s never acceptable to abuse workers.

We recognise that this is a long-term campaign and changing customer attitudes and behaviour and putting in place effective protections for workers won’t happen overnight.

In March 2018 the SDA held a national industry roundtable bringing together employers, employer groups and relevant government agencies on how to tackle the issue and better protect workers.

Following the roundtable, there has been important steps towards creating change including:

  • SDA consultation with employers and launch of the “Don’t Bag Retail Staff’ advertising campaign calling out customers not to take out frustrations about bans on single use plastic bags on workers
  • Commission of a shopping centre trial of effective preventative measures
  • Working with employers on their specific policies and training
  • SDA briefing of Federal Members of Parliament and Senators about the issue
  • A literature review on solutions for occupational violence in retail and fast food industries
  • Meetings with relevant state or territory agencies including police and government safety regulations

The SDA continues to call on customers to respect retail and fast food workers because abuse shouldn’t be in a day’s work.

We are also asking employers and employer groups to step up and do everything they can to prevent abuse and violence and ensure workers are protected.

Employers should encourage workers to report all incidents, support those workers when it happens and send a clear message to customers that abusive behaviour is not tolerated.

Imagine going to work every day knowing you will probably be abused? That’s the reality for thousands of Australian retail and fast food workers. It cannot continue and we need your support.

Everyone can help make a difference by showing respect to retail and fast food workers. When you’re shopping this Christmas or going through the drive-thru on your holidays remember – no one deserves a serve.

Abuse shouldn’t be in a day’s work.

Share our message

Please share our videos with your friends, family and in your community to create awareness about this issue and call out customers who do the wrong thing.

Share your story about abusive customer behaviour at work and use the hashtag #noonedeservesaserve and tag @SDAunion on facebook so we can share it too.

Join the SDA, the union for retail and fast food workers 

If you work in retail, fast food or warehousing joining your union the SDA is one of the best things you can do to help the campaign.

SDA members across Australia are driving this campaign and we need more support to tackle this issue.

Standing together is critical for safer stores and to put in place industry wide protections for workers.

Join now

The customer is not always right.
Abuse shouldn’t be in a day’s work.
Watch our ad.